News Story

Hit the Road, Jack! Columnist's Pitch to Close All Charter Schools Hurts Kids

Michigan Radio columnist Jack Lessenberry says he wants to shut down Michigan’s charter schools, because among other reasons they are “draining resources” from the conventional public school districts forced to compete against the charters.

"I think the time has come to get rid of charter schools," Lessenberry wrote in a column last week. "That’s right – get rid of them, all of them. Many or most of them don’t work, and all of them are draining resources from our conventional public schools and helping further destabilize education."

ForTheRecord says: It would be interesting to hear Lessenberry’s definition of charter schools that “don’t work.” For example, would it apply to a charter school referenced in a Michigan Capitol Confidential report earlier this week, Countryside Academy in Benton Harbor?

Countryside is growing, with 596 of its 634 students coming from within the Benton Harbor Area Schools District jurisdiction. The charter school received an “A” on a Mackinac Center school report card that adjusts for students’ socio-economic backgrounds to give more valid “apples to apples” comparisons.

But if it were up to Lessenberry, those kids would find the doors of their top-rated charter school closed, and themselves back in D-rated Benton Harbor school district middle school and high school classes.

At Countryside Academy, 83.6 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or reduced lunch programs, compared to 81.8 percent in the conventional school district. Also at Countryside, 26.4 percent of 634 students meet the “chronically absent” criteria (missed more than 10 school days in one school year), compared to 59.8 percent at Benton Harbor Area Schools.

“Get rid of them. All of them,” says Lessenberry.

The families of those 600 children probably have a different opinion about their school than a columnist who wants to close it for “draining resources” from the sub-par district they would otherwise be attending.

It is about the kids, isn’t it?